Kentucky Owl was once known only to a truly dedicated set of whiskey drinkers who paid exorbitant retail prices (and worse on the secondary market) for the brand’s extremely limited bourbon releases sourced from an undisclosed distillery or distilleries in Kentucky. You may still have never heard of Kentucky Owl, but after its sale to Stoli Group (I know you’ve heard of their vodka) and plans to invest $150 million in a distillery and visitor center for the brand, chances are good you’ll be hearing and seeing more from them soon. Early evidence to that fact is the first batch of Kentucky Owl Straight Rye, which was recently released in 25 states plus the District of Columbia.
Like the bourbon, Kentucky Owl Rye is a sourced whiskey of unknown provenance, but it clocks in at 11 years old (a ripe age for any rye out there), and it’s bottled at almost 111 proof. The nose is a little restrained for the proof, but it’s complex nevertheless with mint, toasted oak, and honeyed floral notes. The proof is more evident on the palate with a bold, peppery entry, but the initial heat subsides rather quickly for a rye. It’s perhaps a little thin but still wonderfully oily and rich. The palate is full of clove, cinnamon, and a little ginger all balanced perfectly with the oak. Most enjoyable is how the rye spice lingers across the whole experience, never overpowering any of the other flavors as so many ryes often do. The finish is long with a slight heat and fading notes of honey, vanilla, and baking spice.
All told, this first batch of Kentucky Owl Rye is an exceptional sipping whiskey, and as an introduction for what will likely be a big brand expansion, it sets the bar high.
110.6 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1.